The Agitated Man

So my train stopped between stations, in the tunnel. We were delayed—not enough for it to seem catastrophic, but passengers were starting to cough/crane their heads/express low-level anxiety.


A really tall agitated man burst into our car yelling that he was going to hurt people; waving his arms, bounding up and down the car, having an explosive argument with someone who was not really there.

We were at the last/first car of the train, and the agitated man banged on the door of the conductor’s booth. He was threatening to hurt the conductor as retaliation for the delay. He said we all took him for a fool; but now he was going to show everybody who’s boss.

We were scared shitless, moving on from low-level anxiety to quiet desperate panic. And if somebody pulled the emergency break, we might have been stuck there for a good while longer.

A few of the men made eye contact with each other, as if wordlessly communicating whether they were going to have to take this guy down. Meanwhile, the agitated man was standing right in front of me screaming at the top of his lungs at the people in the train—and to the imaginary person just outside our eyeshot—making generalized threats of violence and punching into the air.

As I sat there motionless, my eyes frozen on the same paragraph it had been on since this entire thing began, I realized it was nothing personal. He could end up suddenly punching me in the face or pulling out a knife or whatnot. But he could just as well do it to anyone else, such as the conductor who briefly stuck his head out of his booth and then quickly retreated.

The train suddenly moved again, but the agitated man was still not happy. He believed that this was a dirty trick pulled by the conductor to make him look like a fool. So he continued to scream and yell and threaten retaliation.

Finally, we reached the stop before my destination. Some of us were hovering; wondering if we should run out of the car (regardless if it was our stop or not), or stay while the agitated man left the train. The agitated man looked unsure if he should go or stay as well. He looked almost nostalgic for this moment he shared with all of us, this moment in which we were all brought so close together.

But he left; and I stayed.

I was numb. Some of the passengers looked at each other in shock.

About 15 minutes later I arrived to work, still numb.